Members of the new Global Women network say the chance to mentor emerging female leaders is a key reason for the formation of the powerful group.
The 75-strong membership of Global Women – officially launched in Auckland tonight – reads like a who’s who of successful New Zealand females.
Board members include former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley, constitutional lawyer Mai Chen, and New York-based Bridget Liddell who chairs New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s North America Beachhead Advisory Board.
Members include chief executive of the Royal Society of New Zealand Di McCarthy, and Sydney-based group executive of human resources for the Commonwealth Bank of Australia Barbara Chapman.
Liddell, who is also managing principal of Fahrenheit Ventures which helps companies access the US market, said she had been involved with similar organisations in America.
“I’ve seen the huge effectiveness of these networks in making things happen for people both in a personal sense and also in a business sense.”
More of New Zealand’s senior people were moving internationally and “having networks that they can link into in New York or London or Sydney, Shanghai, that seemed to me to be very important”.
Chapman said New Zealand women had reached top leadership positions but there had been no format for them to learn from each other.
While networking was important, the second part of the equation was to support up-and-coming women.
“It’s not so much what you get out of it but it’s what you can put into it.”
She had not experienced a glass ceiling, and said there were plenty of examples that showed women did not have to make an “either/or” choice about family and career.
Di McCarthy helped establish a women in leadership in New Zealand universities programme two years ago and said Global Women extended the idea beyond the academic arena. She believed the glass ceiling did exist – for example, not one New Zealand university vice-chancellor or chief executive of a Crown Research Institute was a woman.
Board member Sarah Kennedy, who is chief executive of health products company Vitaco, said there had been an overwhelming response with most of the 85 women invited to join signing up.
Fellow board member Katrina Troughton, based in Shanghai as director of IBM’s WebSphere unit, said Global Women was an important way for ex-pat Kiwis to keep in touch with the local scene.
“It’s a really great experience to be able to just meet and be involved with some of the women that I probably never would have normally.”